Dr. Mike Pignone, a nationally known leader in the treatment and prevention of chronic illness, is the inaugural Chair of Internal Medicine at the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.
For those unfamiliar with internal medicine, what is the focus of your work?
Internal medicine focuses on the non-surgical care of adult patients, and encompasses multiple specific areas, including cardiology, endocrinology/diabetes, gastroenterology, geriatrics, hematology, infectious diseases, ambulatory general internal medicine, hospital medicine, nephrology, rheumatology, and pulmonary/critical care.
My personal background is in general internal medicine, and I have a strong focus on developing, testing and implementing systems for prevention and care of patients who are at risk for chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. I am excited about working with everyone at Dell Med to help build the most innovative medical school in the United States, one that contributes to helping create a high-value health system for the 21st century.
What is your general vision for the department and what benchmarks do you have for success?
I am looking forward to developing a collaborative vision in concert with colleagues at the medical school, the UT Austin faculty, local physicians, and the broader community. In starting a new school, we have the advantage of not being constrained by structures and practices that may have made sense in the past, but that are no longer optimal.
One important marker of success will be our ability to recruit and train an outstanding faculty, and I am very much looking forward to working with Dean Johnston and other Dell Med leaders to do so.
How does the community of physicians in Austin fit into your vision at this point?
The Austin physician community is critical to the success of the medical school, and we need their help in developing and implementing effective ways to improve health in Austin and Travis County. They also play a key role as educators of our students and residents. Beyond that, I also plan to engage them in helping to answer important research questions about the best ways to deliver care.
What attracted you to this role at Dell Medical School?
I’m attracted to the opportunity to build an innovative medical school with wonderful colleagues at a top-flight university in a great city!
What benefits and value will a top-tier Department of Internal Medicine provide to the people of Austin and Travis County?
The Dell Medical School and its Department of Internal Medicine will provide many benefits to the people of Austin and Travis County. These benefits include helping to provide care, including for the underserved and uninsured; educating future physician leaders, many of whom will choose to practice locally after their training; and conducting cutting edge medical research, which includes successfully competing for external funding, which itself will have important economic benefits for the community, including new jobs. The medical school’s Department of Internal Medicine, as one of the largest departments in the school, is critically important for achieving these outcomes.
What are some of the challenges you are anticipating?
The first challenge, which I am very much looking forward to, is learning about the current medical and health landscape of Travis County. I also look forward to meeting and engaging with the diverse community of health care providers in the area, as well as from the people who we will be serving as patients.
What are you most excited about?
I’m excited about many things, but one that stands out: seeing the faces of our first class of medical students as they start their journey to becoming doctors!